Augustus Hill Garland was born in Tipton County, Tennessee, on June 11, 1832. He received his education at St. Mary's College, Lebanon, Kentucky, and at St. Joseph's College, Bardstown, Kentucky. He studied law and in 1853 was admitted to the bar. He practiced law in Washington, Arkansas, for six years. Garland's first public position was that of delegate to the convention called by his State to consider relations with the Federal Union after President Lincoln's election. He was elected a member of the Confederate Provisional Congress which assembled in 1861. He was a member of the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Confederate States, and then a member of the Senate.
Garland was elected to the United States Senate in 1866, but was not permitted to take his seat as Arkansas had not been readmitted to the Union. In 1874 he was for a time acting secretary of state for Arkansas, and in the same year elected Governor of that State. He was elected to the United States Senate without opposition in 1876, and reelected without opposition. President Cleveland appointed Garland Attorney General of the United States in 1885, a position he retained until the close of that administration. He died on January 26, 1899, in Washington, D.C., while arguing a case before the Supreme Court.